Polar bear tagged with graffiti, scientists fear it won't survive

A Russian polar bear was spotted in the wild with a graffiti tag painted on it on Sunday.

Footage was shared online of the bear wandering through the Arctic with “T-34,” the name of an iconic Soviet tank, spray-painted on its side.

Sergey Kavry, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) employee, posted the video on Facebook along with an impassioned message. He says the black paint against the bear’s white fur will prevent it from camouflaging successfully to track prey, which Kavry says could push the dangerous animal closer to humans.

“He will not be able to hunt discreetly,” Kavry wrote in Russian. “From starvation, it will begin to take prey, die itself or cripple others. He will begin to enter the village.”

READ MORE: Polar bears ‘invade’ buildings in Russian Arctic town, prompt state of emergency

How someone managed to spray-paint the huge polar bear has stumped researchers. Scientists have speculated it’s likely the bear had to be sedated for it to be painted.

In the comments section of the video, the environmental activist says he received the footage via WhatsApp from Indigenous people in Chukotka.

Officials are now trying to discern where exactly the video was taken in order to locate the animal.

A spokesperson for the WWF said the writing “looks like a bad joke” and was “quite a shock” to see.

In February, officials declared a state of emergency in the Russian archipelago of Novaya Zemlya after at least 50 polar bears set up a home near the town in December and started feeding at the local garbage dump.

Novaway Zemlya has a population of about 3,000 people.

The “mass invasion of polar bears” is believed to be caused by climate change forcing bears further from their natural habitats to find food.

READ MORE: Injured Inuit hunters huddled for 3 days after polar bear killed friend

Local publication TASS reports that bears have been found in offices, apartment buildings and even playgrounds.

The Russian branch of the WWF released a report in August warning the people of Ryrkaipiy in Chukotka that polar bear sightings in the area were becoming more common.

Anatoly Kochnev, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes this is the work of “pranksters,” he told the RIA Novosti state news agency.

“It’s possible that they took steps there this winter — capture, sedation — and since it’s not scientists doing this, then some jokers .”

This isn’t a problem just for Russian communities, though.

In June, wildlife officers warned of a polar bear on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula.

The bear was spotted on Green Island, about one kilometre from the town of Cook’s Harbour.

READ MORE: Wildlife officers warn of polar bear on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula

Polar bear sightings along the northern coast of Newfoundland typically increase in the spring as the big carnivores follow seals heading south on ice floes to give birth to their pups.

—With files from Rebecca Joseph and Canadian Press

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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